Food Notes for August 1, 2022

Openings

  • Buongiorno, the breakfast pop-up at Vignettes, officially opened last week, and is open Monday to Friday from 9am-3pm until August 27, 2022. The menu features breakfast pizzas and coffee from the folks behind Cafe Amore, Black Pearl, and Da Capo Caffe.
  • Windermere definitely seems to be the neighbourhood with the most openings this year, chains and locals alike. The latest is the city’s second Black Pearl location, opening August 2 at 1285 Windermere Way.
  • The ghost kitchen that houses Taco Nova has rebranded as Komune, and now has several additional brands under its umbrella, including Carnivore Subs, serving up sandwiches, Umai Rice, serving up sushi, and Strada, serving up Roman street food.
  • American chain Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is opening up a second location in the Edmonton area in St. Albert (935 St. Albert Trail, #425). Their opening date is slated for August 12, 2022.
  • Canadian chain Wing’N It Express is now open at 1317 Windermere Way.

Closures

  • Taproot had more about Blue Plate Diner’s closure, including how its relocation to 124 Street may have impacted its longevity. Sadly, although the restaurant had hoped to remain open until the end of August, they confirmed that July 31, 2022 was their final day of operation.

Upcoming Events

  • JustCook Kitchens is hosting the 5th Street Luau on August 5 and 6, 2022, with a pig roast and Hawaiian-inspired cocktails and mocktails.
  • The Public is hosting a cheese tasting with Aditya Raghavan of Fleur Jaune on August 8, 2022 at Fleisch. Tickets are $65.
  • The next Prairie on the Plate event will take place at Glass House Kitchen & Bar at The Enjoy Centre. Tickets for the 3-course meal are $65.
  • Capital Care Foundation’s Feast on the Field fundraiser returns on August 17, 2022. Tickets for the event are $229.
  • Get Cooking is hosting a Whole Hog Pig Pickin’ BBQ Party with Pitt Country BBQ. The class includes a demonstration of how to barbecue a pig, Northern Carolina style, plus the preparation of some sides to eat alongside the meat. Tickets are $138 per person.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Edmonton Public Library is hosting a free series of workshops called Life Skills: Plant Support with gardener extraordinaire Suzanne Cook. The series runs every other Sunday until the end of September, and monthly thereafter.
  • The City of Edmonton released the details of their Residential Boulevard Gardening Program last week. The program allows locals to apply for permits to plant on strips of land between the sidewalk and the road.

What I Ate

  • You’d be hard pressed to find a better way to start the morning than with an asiago scallion biscuit from Rosewood Foods.
  • Rosewood Foods

Biscuit and coffee from Rosewood

  • We finally tried the doughnuts from the Fawkes Coffee & Doughnuts pop-up on 104 Street. They’ve been selling out, and it’s not hard to see why – we especially loved the lemon berry crumble and chocolate chocolate chip flavours from this week.
  • Fawkes Doughnuts

Doughnuts from Fawkes

  • Emily hammed up our meal at Otto on Friday night. Their Otto dog has been our go-to from the beginning, and Emily polished off the fries. Service is always great, too.
  • Otto

Emily with our spread at Otto

Food Notes for July 25, 2022

Pal’s to be Next Piece of Old Strathcona Restaurant Empire

Slated to open in August, Pal’s Sandwich Bar is the latest restaurant from the team behind The Next Act, Meat, and Pip. The classic sandwich shop will be the group’s fourth venture within a one-block radius.

Co-owner Saylish Haas said monopolizing the intersection of 104 Street and 83 Avenue was never a grand plan; it just gradually happened that way. “There were never long-term plans to take over the block, but it has come through opportunities that arose,” said Haas.

Last year, the owners’ realtor sent a listing for the building east of their other properties, which formerly housed Packrat Louie, among other restaurants. “We looked at it more as a joke with the partners, but then we said, ‘Why not?’,” said Haas. “Pip doesn’t have enough seats, and with the space we would conquer that issue.”

Shifting Pip across the street will more than double its size from 28 seats at its current location to about 80 seats in the new one. Expect its doors to open in September, with minor tweaks. “We will stick with our current menu when we launch,” said Haas. “It will be Pip as you know it.”

During the design phase, they soon realized the new space could house an additional concept, made up of 40 seats and a large patio. After identifying a gap in quality sandwiches available in the area, Pal’s was born. “Our whole concept is comfort food,” said Haas. “Pal’s will be an intimate sandwich shop, with great food, desserts, cocktails, and wine.”

Pip chef Brad Tebble has moved over to lead Pal’s, which is how the name came to be. “Brad calls everyone ‘pal’ and signs off e-mails that way,” said Haas. “So it is an ode to our head chef — this is where you can hang out with your pal, and it is a nice way to capture that you’re going to a place that is casual and easygoing.”

Haas was quick to emphasize that while Pal’s will have some takeaway options, the focus will be on dine-in service, with daily hours tentatively spanning from 11am to 10pm. “We will have a night business and hope that people will come for dinner, and the patio will be a part of that,” she said.

The menu will be made up of hot and cold sandwich options, including meatball, egg salad, chicken club, and muffaletta, an Italian meat and cheese standard. Sides will include items such as pickled cauliflower or mortadella served with house-made focaccia, and desserts will focus on pies and cakes.

In addition to making baguettes, rye, and focaccia in-house, Pal’s will also bring in some bread from local bakery Bread + Butter. The Italian Centre Shop will be the main source of meat and cheese.

The target opening date for Pal’s is August, hopefully midway through the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival.

As for the vacancy that Pip will leave, Haas said the ownership group will be keeping the space, but doesn’t yet have a solid plan. “We honestly can’t think about that space until this one is done,” said Haas. “But it will be a different concept altogether.”

Although they were able to come through the last two years with all three restaurants intact, Haas acknowledges that it was hard, requiring constant modifications, customer support, and government funding. She hopes things are moving towards more pre-pandemic-like conditions.

“We’re trying to be optimistic,” said Haas. “We like to serve people and entertain them and host an experience inside our restaurants.”

Openings

  • The Colombian’s third brick and mortar café in Parkallen opened this past weekend, located at 6529 111 Street.
  • Fawkes Coffee & Doughnuts opened their pop-up at 10137 104 Street last week. Check them out for bottled cold coffee drinks (for now), and vegan donuts.
  • Powerage Wine & Spirits bills itself as an “independently owned rock ‘n’ roll bar”, located at 10643 124 Street.
  • Hirondelle Bakery, which has been vending at the Al Fresco Market on 104 Street on Saturdays, will be opening up a pick-up location in the same building as Taco Nova, at 10505 106 Street (on a related note, Taco Nova also announced that they will be offering indoor seating, soon).
  • California Pizza Kitchen’s first Canadian location will open in Edmonton on August 1, 2022 at 5260 Windermere Boulevard (is it strange that the reason I want to try it is because of Succession’s Cousin Greg?).

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Eats on 118 guided tours are back, running August 10, 24, and September 7 and 21. Tickets are $45 and will include food samples at three stops.
  • MilkCrate’s Feast in the Field returns this year on August 20, 2022. Tickets are $95 for a family-style meal. Mack and I had the privilege of attending last year and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Local News

What I Ate

  • It was a beautiful night for Taste of Edmonton on Friday! I definitely missed the Hotel Mac, but we were happy Pikante was back this year, and Emily can never pass up Little Bear Gelato.
  • Taste of Edmonton

Family outing to Taste of Edmonton

  • My friend Su invited me to Get Cooking’s bun cha patio pop-up over the weekend. It was the perfect afternoon to enjoy Mai Nguyen’s food outdoors. The herbs and greens were especially refreshing in the dish.
  • Get Cooking

Bun cha from Get Cooking

Food Notes for July 18, 2022

Leopard Brings Pizza and Soft Serve to Glenora

Leopard, a new restaurant in Glenora’s West Block tower that aims to provide quality pizza and soft serve to the neighbourhood, is the result of conversations that began before the pandemic and a menu perfected during the lockdown.

Cantiro, the developer of West Block, approached Andrew Borley of Woodwork and Bar Clementine about developing something in one of the commercial spots at the base of the high-rise condo, which was built on the corner of 142 Street and Stony Plain Road in 2019.

“It was the builder who wooed us here,” said Rachael Borley, Andrew’s wife and operations manager across all three restaurants. “They loved what we were doing at Woodwork and Clementine, and they were looking for a bar like Clementine to duplicate over in Glenora.”

Andrew was not interested in replicating an existing property, but he was interested in the idea of developing something new at West Block. By the time they officially signed on to the project in May 2021, the concept of pizza and ice cream had crystallized, which opened things up for them to cater to a new population.

“We are fully aware that this is the first time we have a change table in the bathroom,” Rachael said. “It is a different demographic, it’s pizza and ice cream, it’s meant for everybody. A place where the adults can have a cocktail and enjoy themselves and the kids can have a good time.”

Given their experience at Woodwork and Bar Clementine over the past couple of years, the pandemic also forced the Borleys to consider the longer-term viability of any new endeavour.

“We are so lucky and blessed to be on the other side with two restaurants still functioning,” she said. “I had no idea how hard it was to do takeout. It was hard to translate our experience into a little box. So it felt safer to go down a pizza avenue with food that is more sustainable and common for takeout.”

Rachael ate her share of pizza as Andrew worked on his recipes.

“Like everybody else, we had extra time during the pandemic, and he fell down a rabbit hole to tackle sourdough pizza for the first time,” she laughed. “He strives for excellence in everything, so he worked a long time tweaking it. Some weeks he made pizza three or four times a week to perfect the dough.”

The pizza style lent its name to the restaurant. “It is cooked in a 900-degree oven for a minute, and ‘leoparding’ is when it puffs up on the crust and gets the black dots,” she said. “That’s the goal.”

However, because the dough requires three to five days to ferment, whipping up extra dough just isn’t possible, so they will need more time to determine how much product is necessary to meet diners’ demands inside the 40-seat restaurant before Leopard offers takeout. She said the restaurant sold out of pizza two out of its first three nights.

Ice cream felt like a natural pairing with pizza. “It hearkens back to childhood and nostalgia, seeing ice cream coming out of a soft serve machine. Everybody loves it, from kids to adults.”

Similar to the process he used to develop the sourdough, Andrew also took a deep dive into ice cream before coming up with Leopard’s signature tonka bean flavour. “It’s a custard, it’s got eggs and cream and is really rich and velvety. With olive oil and sea salt, it’s like nothing you’ve ever tried,” Rachael said.

In time, Leopard will be working towards opening a patio, in addition to installing a takeout window for pizza and soft serve. But even in the first week, the team already feels embraced by the neighbourhood.

“People are really supportive of the businesses here,” she said of the area, which is also home to El Corazon and Square One Coffee. “We already feel like a part of the community.”

Openings

  • For a Winter City, Edmonton has sure had a increase in the number of ice cream shops this year. The latest to open is Annie Rue in Parkallen, at 6531 111 Street.
  • Calgary-based restaurant Blanco Cantina is now open in South Edmonton Common (1708 99 Street).
  • The owner of Monsoon Bistro and Bar opened up Goldie’s in Telford Mews, a building for independent senior living, in Leduc, with a menu created by long-time executive chef at Sorrentino’s, Sonny Sung, who is now consulting. Goldie’s will open to the public later in the summer.
  • British Pantry, with a location in Calgary and offering imported British food goods, is now open at West Edmonton Mall in Suite 2001, Phase 1.

Upcoming Events

Local News

What I Ate

  • We found a shady spot on Violet King Henry Plaza to enjoy some takeout from Envie on Friday. The southern flatbread was particularly tasty (the chili mayo had a mild kick) and we also liked the seasoning on the fries. The meal was also value-oriented, coming in at under $40 for two. We will be back!
  • Envie

Southern flatbread and poboy from Envie

  • We grabbed some butter chicken wraps from Remedy over the weekend. I had forgotten how large the serving was; it was more than enough for two lunches!
  • Remedy

Butter chicken wrap from Remedy

  • When I start my maternity leave in a few weeks, I will miss my office’s proximity to El Fogon. I love their shredded beef and Gouda arepas.
  • El Fogon

Beef and Gouda arepa from El Fogon

  • The hot weather over the weekend was also a good enough excuse to stop by Leopard to try their soft serve. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the olive oil and sea salt complemented the ice cream – well worth it.
  • Leopard

Tonka bean soft serve from Leopard

Food Notes for July 11, 2022

Sorellina Coffee to Open Brew Bar in Old Strathcona

Coffee roaster Sorellina Coffee will be opening a café called Sorellina Brew Bar in late July. Italian for “little sister”, Sorellina is an apt name given the company grew from owner Lynsey Hayes’s start at her brother’s business.

“I had been working for my brother Andrew at Roasti Coffee in Sherwood Park as his green coffee buyer for a few years,” said Hayes. “In late 2020 I decided it was time to build a coffee company of my own. My goal was and is still to highlight the work of coffee producers with small farms and unique varietals.”

Hayes set up shop at Roasti and began by selling coffee at a local makers’ market. She soon added an online shop with free local delivery, selling beans with retail partners such as Meuwly’s and Cafe Rista, as well as supplying café clients in the city and beyond.

“You can drink Sorellina Coffee at Awn Kitchen, RGE RD, and The Art of Cake, and on rotation at Farrow Sandwich shops in Edmonton,” said Hayes. “Some of the best multi-roaster cafés in the country also serve Sorellina Coffee on a rotating basis, from Small Victory in Vancouver, to Cortado Tasting Room in Nova Scotia.”

Hayes said she had always envisioned a brick-and-mortar café where she could share her coffees with people. A space in the 124 Street area fell through last year, so she put her plans on hold until her brother approached her with an alternative.

“This spring, he made the decision to really focus on his wholesale clients and his home base roastery in Sherwood Park, so he offered me his Whyte Avenue café,” said Hayes. “I was excited! It’s a great location with so much potential. Secretly, though, I think he just wanted his office back at the roastery.”

With bean roasts cheekily named “90’s Keanu” and “There’s Something About Blanca Maria,” café guests can expect a retro vibe and pop culture throwbacks in the space, Hayes said. But she also aims for the shop to enhance customers’ knowledge about beans and brewing techniques.

“We will not be a typical coffee shop,” said Hayes. “With Sorellina Brew Bar my goal isn’t just to sell cups of coffee and beans. I want to create a fun and interactive experience where anyone can come to learn about our coffees. We will be offering flights of a feature coffee every month where you can taste it prepared three different ways, and your barista will take you through what makes each expression of the coffee unique.”

Hayes said Sorellina will also offer private tasting events, brewing classes, and cocktail takeovers. While coffee will be the focus, the Brew Bar will also serve pastries and baked goods from a few local companies.

Hayes is aiming to open the Brew Bar on July 29, which will allow two of her baristas — Alora Van Diepen and Frederica Danziger — to participate in the Canadian National Brewer’s Cup in Regina on July 20. “We are putting all of our energy and support into them right now,” said Hayes.

When it does open, Hayes invites coffee lovers to come on down. “Whyte Ave. has historically been a place people flock to for fun and excitement, and that definitely will be the case with Sorellina Brew Bar. We are here for a good time!”

Openings

  • Tee Pee Treats is celebrating their grand opening at the CO*LAB on July 12, 2022 (9641 102A Avenue).
  • Lucky Kitchen is a new restaurant offering all day dim sum, located at 10346 University Avenue.
  • Wilhauk Beef Jerky added a third location in the Edmonton area with an outpost at West Edmonton Mall. They also operate in Spruce Grove and Leduc.
  • PF Chang’s first Edmonton location is now open in Windermere at 6303 Currents Drive.

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • The Downtown Business Association is hosting four free plant workshops this summer, focusing on local plants and how they are used for healing and wellness in Indigenous culture. The sessions will end with participants making their own tea blend. The workshops will run July 12 and 13 and August 9 and 10.
  • The City of Edmonton is hosting a new series of events called Plant & Pulls “where volunteers can participate in both tree planting and weed pulling”. Participants will learn about the urban forest and removal of invasive plants. The events will take place on July 13 and 23, 2022.
  • Filistix is hosting a Filipino Street Food event on July 22, 2022 from 11am until sold out at their Downtown location.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • The Edmonton Food Council is recruiting new members. The deadline for applications is August 5, 2022.
  • The Little Potato Company broke ground in Leduc on a packaging facility and new Canadian head office last week.

What I Ate

  • I had a beautiful belated birthday dinner on Friday at Tzin. Kelsey and her team always knocks it out of the park with such warm service and exceptional food. If you haven’t tried their bacon yet, you’re missing out.
  • Tzin

The bacon from Tzin

  • We hit up some classic Beverly spots on Saturday, including a stop at Take 5. It’s difficult not to over-order when staring down their doughnut shelves.
  • Take 5

One of many treats from Take 5

  • We also picked up some sandwiches from Swiss 2 Go. It had been some time since my last visit, but their food is always consistent – made with such care from good ingredients. And their pretzel buns are the best in the city.
  • Swiss 2 Go

Perfect picnic fare from Swiss 2 Go

  • We ended our Saturday morning with a tour of the Edmonton Urban Farm, open every Saturday to visitors from 10am-4pm until October 8. The plots were all coming up nicely, and the greenhouses were a neat addition. Emily was thrilled to eat her way through the strawberry patch!
  • Edmonton Urban Farm

Emily loves strawberries

Food Notes for July 4, 2022

Northern Chicken Expands to 104 Street Downtown

After two tough years of operation exacerbated by the pandemic, Northern Chicken announced in June that it would be opening up a second location in downtown Edmonton.

Back in March, co-owner Matt Phillips shared that “the next few weeks are critical to the continued existence of our business.” The social media post attracted the attention of a local investor who wishes to remain unnamed. That turned the tide for the business, said co-owner Andrew Cowan.

“[The investor] had seen us talking about our struggles online and really believed in the restaurant and who we are and what we stand for and wanted to help us keep going,” said Cowan. “In all honesty without people stepping up to help us do that, we were done.”

Cowan said that although this was the only restaurant the investor has been involved in, they respected Northern Chicken’s outspoken support of the LGBTQ community and the mental health of hospitality workers. The investment included a directive to expand. Cowan said moving into the soon-to-be-vacant Say Uncle space at 10184 104 Street — leased by business partner Jimmy Shewchuk — was a natural fit.

“The location made sense,” said Cowan. “And the décor is along the lines of what we do and it wouldn’t be hard for us to change it over.”

Cowan hopes to have the second location open before August, and diners can initially expect the same menu as Northern Chicken’s flagship location. Changes may eventually be made to cater more to the neighbourhood, Cowan said.

“I think the Northern Chicken brand is strong, and there is a good patio,” said Cowan. “We’ll have delivery and take-out available and will probably be more heavy on individual meals versus 20 piece meals, but we will make sure we get our bearings and are ready to rock.”

As for the new location’s neighbour across the street — Seoul Fried Chicken, which opened its second location on 104 Street earlier in the summer — Cowan believes there is enough business for both establishments.

“When we first opened, everyone wanted to compare us,” said Cowan. “They’re doing a different style of fried chicken than we are. They have a good following, and we have a good following. It’s like pasta and ramen; they’re both noodles but they’re different.”

Cowan is most excited about the possibilities of the second shop after a lengthy period of stasis. “It’s been two years of doing the same thing over and over again. This is a new space, with new clients, and opportunities to do some new things.”

Openings

  • Leopard is a new pizzeria located in West Block in the Glenora neighbourhood (Unit 170, 14053 West Block Drive).
  • EVEL Drinks + Eats is now open at 8716 109 Street, serving up bao, bubble tea, and drinks.
  • Token Bitters has opened their first storefront as a part of the long-delayed Vignettes Brick & Mortar Festival. Find them at 10035 108 Street until August 27, 2022.
  • El Mero Mero’s brick and mortar shop is now open. Learn more about El Mero Mero’s journey from food truck to restaurant.
  • Twice Cream’s official opening date is July 8, 2022, at 10983 127 Street. If you wanted to stop by earlier, they are currently in their soft opening phase.
  • It looks like The Little Spot, at 11907 Jasper Avenue, which stocks products from other purveyors, including Battista’s Calzones, along with their house-made gelato, has re-opened.
  • Second Cup’s long-awaited location in the Stanley Milner Library is now open.

Closures

  • The Nook has closed its Downtown shop, having been “asked to vacate this location by the landlord.” They have moved their equipment and furnishings into storage while they look for a new home.

Upcoming Events

  • Get Cooking is hosting their first patio pop-up of the summer, featuring Kathryn Joel and Mai Nguyen’s bun cha. Tickets are $35 per person, and include a main, drink and dessert.
  • BaconFest is returning to K-Days on July 28, 2022. Tickets are $49.99 each, and includes eight bacon-based dishes, drink samples, and entertainment.

Local News

What I Ate

When I had Emily back in 2018, I only missed posting Food Notes the week she was born. As we expect our second child in August, I’m going to give myself much more grace than that if needed! While I intend to continue with these posts as I am able, I will be taking a break from the feature stories when the time comes. It’s still my great privilege to highlight those working tirelessly in Edmonton’s food and hospitality scene, and I do hope to continue, but it might take me some time to get there. The Food Roundup published by Mack’s startup Taproot Edmonton (on which my stories are also published) will continue, and you will also find food-related stories on the site. Thanks for reading, and I will share an update about the newest little one in the future!

  • A couple of colleagues and I had a lovely lunch at May last week. The Vietnamese pork burger was very tasty, and the service was stellar. Chef Doreen Prei shared that she is leaving May – best wishes on her next chapter!
  • Restaurant May

Vietnamese pork burger and fries from May

  • It’s dangerous now that I know Cupcake Mama is selling single cupcakes out of their storefront in the Don Wheaton YMCA.
  • Cupcake Mama

Cookies and cream cupcake from Cupcake Mama

  • I may have found my new favourite pasta at Dalla – the di mamma! I loved the creamy pesto-infused sauce. Their patio is also such a lovely place to linger, and with Little Bear Gelato on offer, it might just be Emily’s new favourite Downtown spot, too.
  • Dalla

Di Mamma pasta from Dalla

  • We picked up our first Fuzion Donuts to try at Al Fresco on SAturday. They were better than I expected – the Rolo cake donut I tried had great texture, and Mack thought they captured the root beer essence pretty well in his yeasted donut.
  • Fuzion Donuts

Donut from Fusion Donuts

Food Notes for June 27, 2022

El Mero Mero Expands from Food Trucks to Restaurant

Mexican food truck El Mero Mero is readying for its expansion to a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Opening on June 30 at 12223 156 St., the storefront is the culmination of two years of continuous growth for a business that opened near the beginning of the pandemic.

Owner Arturo Ramirez said it was fortuitous for El Mero Mero (which in Spanish means “the best of the best”) to have started in April 2020.

“Looking back now, we discovered that it was a great time to open a food truck because it was a takeout business,” said Ramirez. “It was the only thing open during that time, and it was something to offer people to get out of their houses because restaurants were closed at that time. We were lucky people really enjoyed our food and supported us.”

The food truck did so well that in May 2021, El Mero Mero added a second mobile operation to its roster. During that time, Ramirez began searching for a commissary space that would enable his team to prepare the food to be served through two trucks.

“We found this space, and it was really big, so we thought, why not open a restaurant since we have the square footage for it,” said Ramirez. “We created a really big kitchen where we can produce food for both trucks and the restaurant.”

Ramirez, who is originally from Mexico City, hopes El Mero Mero Taquería will provide diners with an authentic Mexican dining experience.

“We want people to take a little trip to Mexico,” said Ramirez. “The handmade and hand-painted tile on the bar was brought in from Mexico, and the glassware is handmade in Mexico. A lot of the restaurant is from Mexico.”

Although the space offers sit-down tables, Ramirez is also excited about the shelves along the wall that will allow diners to eat standing up, something typically found at taquerías in Mexico.

The menu at the Taquería will serve the food trucks’ most popular items, including the top-selling birria, slow-cooked beef accompanied by a dipping broth. But the restaurant will also showcase other types of dishes that would not have the space or time to be prepared on a food truck.

“Canastas, or basket tacos, are a typical breakfast in Mexico,” said Ramirez. “We put the tacos in these little baskets and cover it with parchment paper and put really hot oil on them. All the heat evaporates and sweats the tacos.”

While diners can expect El Mero Mero’s signature made-to-order churros at the Taquería, several new desserts, such as a caramel flan, will debut as well. “We will also have platanos fritos where we deep-fry the plantain and cover it with sweet sauce and sour cream. It sounds simple but combines flavours that are really good,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez is aware that his restaurant is joining a host of Mexican establishments that have opened in Edmonton over the past decade, but he believes the focus on authenticity and scratch cooking sets El Mero Mero apart. For instance, its flour tortillas are handmade, while its corn tortillas are all homemade.

“One of the things that we have that other restaurants don’t is a vertical broiler. It is like a rotisserie and cooks meat in a real way like in Mexico City,” said Ramirez. “We also cook our carnitas in a copper pot. The reason is that it gives more sweetness to the meat, and provides the actual flavour you should be expecting.”

Lastly, Ramirez believes that his charitable philosophy has been a key factor in customer loyalty. El Mero Mero chooses a different charity every month and donates a portion of sales in order to give back. In May, for instance, the company donated $1,200 to the Paralympic Sports Association. “People want to support us because we support the community,” said Ramirez.

Although the past two years have been a whirlwind, Ramirez said that the time leading up to the restaurant opening has been the most taxing. “I have grown so many white hairs in the last two months,” laughed Ramirez. “But it will pay off.”

Openings

  • The first of two anticipated Fuwa Fuwa locations in Edmonton is now open at 8103 104 Street. Fuwa Fuwa is a soufflé pancake franchise with other locations in Canada. The second location is set to open on July 16, 2022 at 1217 Windermere Way SW.

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Save the date for the Alberta on the Plate festival, from August 12-21, 2022. So far, four Edmonton area establishments have signed on to be a part of the event.

Local News

What I Ate

  • I had a great birthday brunch at Rosewood Foods on Saturday. Their lemony buttermilk pancakes are like a dream, and even at that hour, we had a great people watching vantage point on the patio. It’s so great to have them in our ‘hood.
  • Rosewood Foods

Patio brunch at Rosewood

Food Notes for June 20, 2022

Oonnie Aims to Connect Consumers with Local Producers

Oonnie, a website that aims to assist consumers who are looking for more convenient ways to shop locally, is set to officially launch on June 25, bringing to life the vision of a Métis entrepreneur who has spent the past 13 years in the commercial construction business.

Oonnie is the brainchild of Nicole Matos, who founded Rivet Construction in Sherwood Park in 2009 and served as its CEO until March of this year.

Matos grew up in rural Alberta on a small cattle farm but eventually ended up relocating to the Edmonton area. During the pandemic, faced with empty shelves at grocery stores, she was reminded of her roots of sourcing food more directly, but she realized she had been away from farms for 20 years, and no longer had those connections with producers. Farmers’ markets also weren’t ideal for Matos based on their limited operation times. She saw this gap as an opportunity to create a portal to bridge consumers with local producers.

The name Oonnie was the result of bingeing Korean dramas during the pandemic. “Unnie” is Korean for “older sister,” which describes the role she believes she will play for many of the entrepreneurs she is onboarding onto her platform.

“I have so many skills, having founded and run a successful business,” said Matos. “So it will be like having an older sister to help guide you.”

Matos has been working with Courtney Hanak, Oonnie’s business manager and owner of William Rae Designs, on building up the number of vendors on the site. So far, they’ve signed on over 20 merchants, including beef and honey producers, as well as established brands such as Confetti Sweets and Roasti Coffee. But Matos intends to broaden the directory even further.

“We’re hoping to have everything,” said Matos. “Our goal is to cover every food department that you would find in a traditional grocery store. I want to have a lot of different cultural foods.”

Matos has heard from conversations with immigrant women in particular that they have found it challenging to break into the market. “It’s so hard if you don’t have something established already,” Matos said. “The hope with this is that people could start from home, and within a day they could have an online presence.”

Matos also sees Oonnie as a way to promote Indigenous-owned businesses. “There’s a huge divide between Indigenous communities and people in urban centres, and COVID created a bigger divide,” she said. “What if people could live on reserve and notify people about when they are coming to town again with their products?”

Matos is aware of other similar sites that have sprung up in recent years, such as Good Goods, Uproot Food Collective, or The Public Food Hub, but she believes the demand can support all of these initiatives.

“We’re about community over competition,” said Matos. “There are many huge grocery stores, so there is room for many.”

The first 100 vendors who sign up on Oonnie will only pay for the credit card processing fees for the first year; vendors who join after this initial group should expect to pay a 12% fee on sales made. Matos is also planning learning sessions for vendors on topics such as Alberta Health Services standards, permitting, and packaging options, to ensure the businesses are set up for success.

Oonnie’s model is similar to Etsy, in that each vendor is responsible for delivering their own products. Matos has arranged with some local small businesses to act as pick-up points, but it is up to each individual vendor to list different fulfillment options.

“You’re dealing directly with that producer through our site,” said Matos. “It’s going from an oven to you – it’s not sitting in a warehouse for a long time.”

Oonnie’s June 25 launch coincides with a scavenger hunt in the Sherwood Park area. Participants will have the chance to win prizes, while all proceeds from food and drinks served at the event will benefit the Strathcona Food Bank.

Openings

Closures

  • Noodle Bar by Nomiya is closing on June 26, 2022 because the owner’s family’s dad is retiring.
  • Say Uncle is closing the first week of July.

Upcoming Events

  • Al Fresco on 104 returns June 25 – August 27, 2022 and will feature outdoor vendors, extended patios, and other festivities.
  • Campio’s outdoor Summer Markets are back once a month until September. They had to postpone their kick-off date due to weather, but mark your calendars for the other events.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Health Canada is proposing that ground beef and pork will have front-of-package nutrition labelling, joining products high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat.

What I Ate

    • We were away in Jasper last week, and enjoyed many of our meals outdoors. As I’ve mentioned during previous staycations, we always use it as an opportunity to try out different meal kits (something I do hope sticks around even as the pandemic fades). We tried the frozen Alberta Donair kits on this trip, and found them to be quite satisfying! We added our own vegetables, but there was definitely enough meat and sweet sauce to go around!

Alberta Donair

Alberta Donair with a view

    • We did make an exception to have lunch at Sunhouse Cafe. The mascarpone French toast was such a treat (I loved their citrus curd), and was even better enjoyed on their sunny second floor patio.

Sunhouse Cafe

Mascarpone French toast from Sunhouse Cafe in Jasper

    • Mack, Emily, and I returned to Langano Skies for one last meal before their closure, and was graciously and unexpected hosted by Amsale and Paul. We loved the lunch combination platters (Emily particularly enjoyed the siga tibs, and Mack and I were partial to the ater kik aletcha wot). The couple will be announcing their future plans later this summer, so stay tuned!

Langano Skies

Combination platters from Langano Skies

    • I tried the Too Good to Go app for the first time, and picked up a box of goodies from Ayco Cafe. It was a pretty decent deal, with three savoury croissants for $5.99. Heated up in the oven, they were great.

Ayco Cafe

Too Good to Go box from Ayco Cafe

    • Over the weekend, we visited some of our favourite businesses in Chinatown, and used it as an excuse to grab take-out from Gui Lin Noodle House. Their fried instant noodles with minced pork is hard to beat.

Gui Lin Noodle House

Fried macaroni and instant noodles from Gui Lin Noodle House

    • We also walked over to the 124 Street Market for the first time this season, and grabbed lunch from one of our favourite food trucks, Coast Lunch Box.

Coast Lunch Box

Buttermilk fried chicken sandwich from Coast Lunch Box

Food Notes for June 6, 2022

Langano Skies Leaves a Legacy of Awareness About Ethiopian Cuisine

Longtime Ethiopian restaurant Langano Skies will host its last meal on June 19. After more than 18 years in business, owners Paul and Amsale Sumamo have decided it’s time to close this chapter in their lives.

“We are older, and it is a 24-hour job,” said Amsale. “Even if we aren’t here, we are always thinking about it. Everything is cooked from scratch, and it takes a lot of time – 14 hours a day, six days a week. We have three grandchildren and want to spend time with them. Time is too short, and the more we get older, the more we want to spend time together outside of the kitchen.”

Still, it was a bittersweet decision to close the restaurant. “It’s been emotional,” she said. “It’s been very hard. I couldn’t smile during the announcement, I was so sad. If I was younger I would keep going.”

The couple’s four adult children have been involved in the restaurant, but have other full-time careers and weren’t interested in taking over the business. The Sumamos were also adamant that the brand will remain with them. “Langano Skies will retire with us. It has a lot of meaning for us. The place, the lake(Lake Langano in Ethiopia), how we started,” Amsale said.

The Sumamos acknowledge that they were not the first Ethiopian restaurant in Edmonton when they opened in 2004. But they still had to educate non-Ethiopian diners about the cuisine. In those early years, they participated in festivals such as the Taste of Edmonton and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, where they worked hard to make people aware of Ethiopian food and how to eat with injera.

“People had no clue about the taste, the texture, how to eat it,” Amsale said of the flatbread made of teff flour. “In the beginning, we had to teach people about the food and how to eat it with their hands. We had people who took forks out of their purse! But we guided them – make sure the injera is flat, scoop your food, and put it in your mouth. It’s that easy.”

Amsale believes her high standard is the primary reason diners have become loyal fans. “The quality didn’t change from Day 1,” she said. “The time I put in, no one else will put. We bring the spices from Ethiopia and I need to know what’s in it. I am very proud of (everything from) the appetizers to the dessert.”

Their ability to adapt to different dietary needs also broadened their reach, Paul added. “We are available for everyone, vegetarians and meat-eaters. We are for both, and we stretched ourselves that way.”

Amsale’s greatest joy in running the restaurant has been sharing their culture and food with the people of Edmonton. In many cases, that has resulted in seeing generations of customers come through the door.

“I was able to see people dating and get engaged. And then they would bring their baby! I have tears I am so happy,” she said. “I was happy I was able to do it for 18 years. I will miss that.”

The Sumamos are planning to operate food booths at both the Edmonton Folk Fest and the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival this summer. They will also share another announcement about what’s next in late August or early September on their Instagram page.

Since their announcement, the Sumamos have been inundated with calls from people eager to have one last meal at the restaurant (they are strongly recommending reservations to avoid disappointment). And though they wouldn’t share the details of how they intend to continue Langano Skies after the summer, they know it will be impossible to replicate the restaurant.

“We make it very cozy with the art, the decor, the paint,” Amsale said. “If we do anything else it won’t be this kind of atmosphere. But you will see us somewhere. As long as we can do it, we will do something.”

The couple is grateful for the community support that has enabled the restaurant to operate all these years. “Thank you to our customers, we wouldn’t be here without them,” she said. “We are very humbled by Edmontonians and love them back.”

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • Tickets for Linda’s Instagrammable Edmonton E-Bike Tours, which feature 4 food stops, are still available for June 8 and 9, 2022. Tickets are $75 per person.
  • Chef Table Living is offering a new series of Brewery and Distillery Bike Tours, running Friday evenings from June 17 – September 2, 2022. Tickets are $89, and include tastings from two local breweries and distillery, as well as a small snack and sandwich.
  • DOSC, Evolution Wonderlounge, and Say Uncle are hosting Pride on 104th event on June 18, 2022, featuring a Drag Brunch and Beer Garden.
  • The Taste of Edmonton returns to Churchill Square July 21-31, 2022. Advance tickets are now available until July 20.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • Canada’s 100 Best List was released last week, without a single Edmonton restaurant represented. It’s always been a list heavily focused on businesses in Toronto and Montreal. While I believe Edmonton has the goods to stack up against national heavy hitters, I am reminded of the excellent piece Jen Agg wrote for the Globe a few weeks ago about the Michelin Guide’s first ever Canadian venture into Toronto, exposing the city’s “desperate hunger for outside praise.”

What I Ate

We’re away next week, so there won’t be a new edition of Food Notes until June 20, 2022. Have a great week!

    • We’re certainly going to miss Downtown Spark, which has brought such vibrancy to our neighbourhood Alex Decoteau Park. It’s been great having a series of rotating food trucks available, alongside music and the art installations! On Friday, we dined on tacos and churros from El Mero Mero.

El Mero Mero

Vanilla churros from El Mero Mero

    • We snuck in one last Downtown Spark visit on Sunday, and indulged in some Sosyal Scoops while they were in the neighbourhood.

Sosyal Scoops

Strawberry milk tea ice cream from Sosyal Scoops

    • Edmonton’s playoff fever might be coming to an end next week, but until then, we couldn’t resist picking up some Oilers-themed bagels from Bagel Bar.

Bagel Bar

#LetsGoOilers bagels

    • We also took in the family-friendly viewing party at Churchill Square on Saturday, and enjoyed some food from Ukrainian House Smachno during the game.

Ukrainian House Smatchno

Hearty dinner from Ukrainian House Smatchno

Food Notes for May 30, 2022

Openings

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • The Twilight Picnic Experience is back at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden. The events resume in June, and the $125 tickets include admission to the Garden for two, activities, and a gourmet picnic box.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • When the cap of urban hens was lifted in 2019, the number of backyard hens in 2020 and 2021 exceeded all previous years combined.
  • The Wâposo-Wâti Park and Community Garden is now open at 107 Avenue and 110 Street. It is a partnership between Native Counselling Services of Alberta, the City of Edmonton, and Alberta Retina Consultants.

What I Ate

  • I finally swung by YEG Smoked Meats to fulfill my #AdoptAShopAB commitment. I picked up our family’s favourite beef pepperoni, along with some sausage and Montreal smoked meat.
  • YEG Smoked Meats

YEG Smoked Meats product

  • Summers are for picnics: we grabbed some take-out from Jack’s Burger Shack and enjoyed it at our neighbourhood park.
  • Jack’s Burger Shack

My go-to Hangover burger

  • We are happy to have a tasty new Downtown neighbour – it will be ready handy (and dangerous) to have Seoul Fried Chicken so close. I especially love the golden kari.
  • Seoul Fried Chicken

Our Seoul Fried Chicken spread

  • We celebrated a family birthday at Branches at the Greenland Garden Centre. It was certainly a hit with Emily – she wolfed down the mini pancake bites (it helped that they were covered in sugar, alongside whipped cream, syrup, and Nutella for dipping).
  • Branches

Breakfast bowl and breakfast pizza from branches

  • Mack and I had a hosted date night at Fu’s Repair Shop. We loved the vibe, and everything, from the drink menu to the dishes was so playful but well conceived. Our favourite dishes were the pork wontons and the green onion cake panzanella salad.
  • Fu’s Repair Shop

Noodles and won tons from Fu’s

  • Our plot is in at the Alex Decoteau Community Garden! We always put our faith in tomato plants from Sundog Organics, but this year we’re also trying out growing peppers and cucumbers for the first time. It’s a great excuse to spend time outdoors, and Emily is now at the age where she loves assisting her fellow community gardeners.
  • Alex Decoteau Community Garden

Garden selfie!

Food Notes for May 23, 2022

Renovations to Bridge Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market into the Future

With its fortieth anniversary approaching, the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market is planning a slate of renovations that will make multi-day operations possible, something the market says both customers and vendors are asking for.

Keith Persaud, market manager, said the building’s history as a former City of Edmonton bus barn has made it difficult for the facility to meet current Alberta Health Services standards and that infrastructure upgrades are a prerequisite if the market were to ever consider becoming a multi-day operation.

“You need to have sinks for sampling and tastings and concession-type food,” said Persaud. “Our vendors have plastic bottles with a bucket.”

Changes to the local food ecosystem during the pandemic have also been a factor in moving renovations forward, given the proliferation of farmers’ markets over the past several years, and the rise in home delivery options. “The industry is changing, becoming more competitive,” said Persaud. “People don’t want to be in a room shoulder to shoulder with 15,000 people, they want more options to come on other days.”

Persaud notes that the shift to a younger cohort of vendors with a different approach has helped make the multi-day conversation possible.

“The new generation is not looking at what their mom and dad did. It’s not coming to the market and standing here. It’s ‘I make this, I hire people, and trucks go out,'” said Persaud. “There’s good and bad with that. You’re not meeting the owners like you used to. The upside is that the vendors are getting more opportunities to sell products and customers are getting more days to shop markets. It’s not as personal as it used to be, but that’s the way it’s going.”

When the proposed renovations — which will include redesigned vendor stalls — are complete, the market intends to open on Fridays from 11am-5pm and on Saturdays from 8am-3pm.

The market also plans to add a general store and a new kitchen and events space, both of which would operate seven days a week. The general store would sell vendor products during off-market hours, and would enable the market to expand its curbside pick-up service to seven days a week. Looking into the future, Persaud teased that a delivery option might even be on the table.

“We’ve talked about home delivery from the market — why couldn’t people call here for delivery if we had the general store? It’s not that hard to do any of that if we’re set up for it. We’re open to anything that is driven by the customers if we have the infrastructure.”

As for the kitchen, Persaud is excited about the possibilities. “The concession we will be one of the truest farm to table experiences. My chef is going to be shopping the market for everything he or she does. When it’s out, it’s out,” said Persaud.

Inspired by an idea he heard about in Red Deer, Persaud will also be looking into whether the entire market could be licensed. “Hopefully you can walk the market with a glass of wine in your hand,” said Persaud. “Why not? One doesn’t ask, one doesn’t get.”

The idea to activate the building seven days a week comes on the heels of questions about whether the lot across Gateway Boulevard should continue to be designated for parking (the market has a lease on the lot until 2025). Persaud could not speak to whether the plans are contingent upon access to free parking, but did confirm they are in ongoing conversations with the city.

“In an ideal world, I would like to tell you that we have that parking lot forever. We are working with the city, and everybody realizes what is needed in order for this vision to happen,” said Persaud. “People drive to the market, it is a destination. You can’t build a Safeway without a parking lot.”

The market has contracted Clark Builders to carry out its vision over the next 18 months at an estimated cost of $3 million dollars, funded through a mix of private and public funds. Construction would take place on days the market is not operational, and the intention is for vendors to continue with minimal disruption during this period.

“If everything goes according to plan, next year is our 40th anniversary and we’re looking to do a ribbon cutting in the fall during harvest time at the end of September,” said Persaud. “We just want to give people more energetic things for the next forty years.”

Openings

  • Seoul Fried Chicken’s second location, at 10145 104 Street, is now open.
  • Takopo is a new food truck on Edmonton’s streets, offering “one of a kind takoyaki…just like the way it is being served on the streets of Osaka.”
  • A second location of Westgate Halal is now open at 12512 137 Avenue.

Upcoming Events

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • It’s such great news that Stanley Milner now hosts a free-to-access Seed Library – check it out if you’re looking at planting this season (or have seeds to share or donate after you’re done planting for the season).

What I Ate

  • I picked up some breakfast sandwiches from Pei Pei Chei Ow at Whiskeyjack Art House last week. They included pesto, greens, 2 eggs, and mortadella. And bonus, while you wait, you can check out the “We are Medicine” exhibition by Lana Whiskeyjack. It was their third week serving food; they are open 7:30am-4:30pm on weekdays. I’ll be swinging by again to try some other sandwiches soon!
  • Pei Pei Chei Ow

Pei Pei Chei Ow Breakfast Sandwich

  • We feasted on take-out from Padmanadi (with a side of Burmese pork curry from Hom) on Friday. Their ginger beef never disappoints, but we also really enjoyed the salt and pepper tofu, which was new to us.
  • Padmanadi

Padmanadi (and Hom) take-out

  • We’ve been in the thick of Oilers fever living so close to Rogers Place, and have taken every opportunity to walk through Ice District on viewing party nights. Last week, we were lucky enough to be treated to some Jackie O’s on our way through, our first mini donuts of the season!
  • Jackie O’s

Excited for mini donuts!

  • We also took in the first period at Churchill Square’s family-friendly viewing party over the weekend, and couldn’t pass up some El Mero Mero tacos during the visit.
  • El Mero Mero

Pescado tacos from El Mero Mero